SUHSD offers seniors option to return to campus

SUHSD+officials+announced+that+seniors+have+the+option+to+return+to+campus+beginning+on+April+12+for+in-person+instruction+during+a+March+22+board+meeting.+%0A

Isaac Lozano

SUHSD officials announced that seniors have the option to return to campus beginning on April 12 for in-person instruction during a March 22 board meeting.

Isaac Lozano, Features Editor

In a district board meeting on March 22, Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) officials announced that seniors will have the option to return to in-person instruction beginning on April 12. The approval comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom incentivized school districts across the state to reopen classrooms for at least one full grade level by offering 12.7 million dollars in state funding.

In February, SUHSD approved allowing 10 percent of students in the district to return to campus, particularly those facing the brunt of connectivity problems, low grades or other pandemic-related issues. Approximately 5,000 students across the district returned to in-person learning on April 12, in addition to seniors who chose to opt for in-person instruction. Some teachers voluntarily returned to school on April 12, but all district staff are expected to be on campus by May 3. 

“We continue to observe all safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and observing physical distancing. These steps are part of the ongoing process we are making toward a safe reopening of our schools,” SUHSD Superintendent Moses Aguirre, Ed.D., said during the March 22 board meeting

Sweetwater Educator Association President and Rancho Del Rey Middle science teacher Julie Walker said the move is medically safe given the social distancing protocols, and that it is a step in the right direction for seniors, most of whom have lost high school milestones.

“Seniors have lost maybe the most; this is our last chance to help them have that last little bit. I think that was part of the reasoning [for the senior callback], which the teachers and members of my association agree with. Every grade level has a reason we’d want them back. But I think it’s probably seniors that you kind of say, ‘Oh man, [they] lost out. I’m so sorry.’”

Walker stressed the tentative state of reopening, as the district continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19. The next phase of reopening has not been confirmed, though Walker noted that SUHSD intends to bring back more students as rates of COVID-19 decline in San Diego.

“With us being able to [return to campus voluntarily], get all the kinks worked out [and] make sure everything’s safe and good, hopefully we have everything ready so we can be fully open,” Walker said. “I think the most exciting news is getting all [Californians] 16 [and up] to get vaccinations because that gets us closer to normal, which [is] the ultimate goal.”

Senior Angelica Castillo said she agreed with the district’s decision but felt “pretty neutral” as she did not have “high expectations” for seniors to want to return to in-person instruction. 

“Personally, I wouldn’t want to go back. I feel like I adapted [to remote learning] considering how long it’s been. It doesn’t really seem [like] something I want to do anymore,” Castillo said.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to go back. I feel like I adapted [to remote learning] considering how long it’s been.”

— Senior Angelica Castillo

Castillo said her biggest worry now is deciding where to go to college, as the pandemic has placed much of the college application process in disarray. 

“My biggest worry is making college decisions and wondering if I should stay closer [to home]. [Will] this pandemic keep on going or is it going to get better?” Castillo said. “[I want to know] where I’m putting my money college-wise.”

Looking forward, Castillo noted that to best support seniors, she hopes the district can provide them the “best” end of the year as COVID-19 cases go down and in-person activities become available. 

“The Class of 2020 didn’t really get [the end of their senior year]. [This year], I feel like instead of doing things like a drive-thru parade, [the district] […] should have our voices heard in events such as graduation and prom. If [SUHSD adjusts] everything to [COVID-19] guidelines, I hope that they do it in a way that puts everyone into consideration,” Castillo said.

This piece was updated on April 30, 2021.